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Beyond the gates of oblivion lies paradise! - 98%

Oakenson, April 30th, 2010

No one ever said changing vocalists was easy, especially when you're one of the most well-known melodic metal bands of not only your home-country but, also, of the whole scene in general; indeed, after Elisa's departure, Dark Moor was in quite a tough spot regarding fan satisfaction (amidst other things), that's for sure, and there's no doubt that the pressure was on ten-fold for their debut album with Mr. Alfred Romero behind the mic. Aye, it's a story we know thesedays, as the band's self-titled record came out a good seven years ago and, with three additional albums under their belt with Alfred on vocals (all of them quite masterful, by the way), it's undoubtedly a transition that worked, however, such success does not (or shouldn't, at any rate) cast a shadow upon the band's "nova era" and, as I see it, Dark Moor's self-titled effort is, by far, their most underrated album.

Outside of the obvious change in vocalists, the band decided to progress their sound into a slightly heavier, moodier, more orchestral (in the film-score sense), less neo-classicalish direction which, for me personally, was okay since, as I see it, no one can take away the brilliance of albums like The Hall Of The Olden Dreams or The Gates Of Oblivion and, frankly, if Dark Moor were STILL releasing albums identical to those two, well, they probably would have inevitably lost their touch by now. Nevertheless, the band shifted gears a bit, opening up a new chapter whilst closing another and, as to be expected, the reactions were mixed, which is where I pleasantly come in with my own two-cents of the whole affair: bloody awesome!

A Life For Revenge, perhaps the album's "safest" track (sounding the most reminiscent of old Dark Moor, whilst still breathing heavily the breaths of fresh air), opens the album as a total victor, showcasing Alfred's dominant vocal capabilities as well as, to be expected, Mr. Garcia's undoubtable compositional abilities. All-in-all, a great opener to swiftly and successfully bring in the winds of change. Other highlights include The Bane Of Daninsky, the album's third number, which features a prominent gothic/horror-esque atmosphere that is a total win in every regard; the juxtaposition of heavy guitars and rhythms with atmospheric keyboards works extremely, extremely well here, and once again is more-than-noteworthy evidence of the band's brilliant arrangement capabilities. From Hell is a very strong, catchy and melodic number with an awesome harp-synth throughout the verses that, to these ears, is quite magical. The Attila saga (being broken-up into five magnificent parts), Philip The Second and Cyrano Of Bergerac are all grandiose and epic, adding profoundly to the album's depth and quality, however, the crowning jewel upon the diadem is ...

The Dark Moor! - what a song, friends! - aye, a song mighty enough to warrant its own paragraph, indeed. As is to be expected from a song named after the band itself, a certain degree of both quality and definition is to be expected and, with this particular track, the band truly have outdone themselves, crafting what is EASILY one of their best songs, right along-side the likes of Nevermore, The Silver Key, Maid Of Orleans, Dies Irae and so on and so forth whilst, in essence, perhaps even eclipsing all of the aforementioned tracks (though such a claim widely depends upon one's individual taste, of course). Beginning with a sort of classical movement that is almost waltz-like and quite gothic in the classic, literary-sort-of sense, the band immediately transports the listener to a darkened fairytale world, utilizing all sorts of orchestrations and choral-arrangements along the way. The heart of the song is, of course, not so much the brilliant orchestrations or the powerful riffs but, rather, the arrangement and composition itself which is, as made quite apparent by now, completely magnificent and moody within all its splendor and bravado! ... yup, a totally genius song that is better heard than read about, certainly.

All-in-all, both Dark Moor and their namesake album are first-rate examples of power metal and, despite the obstacles that the band was up against at the time of the album's release, they undoubtedly conquered without changing but, rather, progressing (there's a BIG difference between the two); the band never sounded so unified up until this point into their career and, with Beyond The Sea, Tarot and, most recently, Autumnal now under their belt with Alfred, Dark Moor are truly stronger than ever. Highly, highly recommended to fans of Dark Moor, power metal and, as to those who have never heard these fellows before but are interested in doing so, a perfect starting point for it's the transition from the old to the new, thus showcasing elements from both eras quite splendidly; brilliant!